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Q&A: Meet Microsoft's new Azure CTO, Mark Russinovich

Joab Jackson | Oct. 1, 2014
Earlier this month, Microsoft quietly appointed software architect Mark Russinovich as chief technology officer for its Azure cloud computing platform, formalizing a role he's been executing for the past several years.

When you go to a services delivery model, it is much more continuous. Developers are developing, operating, and testing the software.

The other key difference is that we're also the ones operating the software. Because we're operating on a large scale, we have the benefit and the onus of developing deep monitoring of the software, so we can detect problems.

Those problems need to be fixed by the developers of the software itself, rather than the engineering team.

We release an update to a small slice of production, and look at the health of the updated code, comparing it with the existing code to see if there are any anomalies that would indicate that something has gone wrong. Once you have confidence with that, you can roll it out to larger and larger segments of the service.

At any time, you need to be able to detect that there is a problem, get a fix for it, and then push out the fix it as quickly as possible. For as long as the problem is out there, you are impacting customers. If you haven't built a system that supports [bug fixes] in a first-class manner, then you go into all sorts of heroics to get a patch out.

IDGNS: So devops is not just a buzzphrase, but the new way of doing things.
Russinovich: There is a lot hidden behind that word. A lot of people think it is just a developer who is pushing stuff to production.

It's easy for a single developer, especially for a start-up. They are writing the code, pushing it out to production, watching it. They have a small customer base who can call and say its broken. So the risk is a lot lower there, and the scale is a lot smaller.

Once you get to something at the scale of an Azure, you can not do it that way. You have to have be automated.

The mind shift started a while back and segments of the company were already operating that way for our first services, such as Bing or Hotmail. So this has been spreading through the entire company and it takes a concerted effort, and takes learning, of what works and what doesn't work. We can share best practices, but each team goes through a unique transformation. Its been fascinating to watch.

A great example is Windows Server. Cloud first means that a lot of things they are doing is for the benefit of Azure, and cloud deployments in server infrastructure in general. One of the obvious things is that Windows Server has a backup feature you can point to Azure, so you can use Azure storage subscription and to back up servers to the cloud.


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